Plot: After Willy Wonka offered Charlie his chocolate factory, they take off in his great glass elevator. Only they go too high. Wonka, Charlie and all of Charlie’s family end up in space where the United States have just finished their first space hotel. The elevators passengers are mistaken for terrorists, encounter dangerous aliens and save the hotel’s employees before returning to their factory.
Though I knew Charlie and the Chocolate Factory quite well, this story was completely new to me. Perhaps it’s that novelty that made it seem even more absurd (in a fun way) than the first book. Some of the events make little logical sense and some things contradict what was established in the first book. And for that I blame Willy Wonka. Wonka defies common sense, quite literally: not only does he confidently spout nonsense (which has the unnerving habit of being true) but he refuses to hear anyone who contradicts him. He’s an interesting character: he can be cruel and dishonest and he is always ready to see the worst in people but there is a magic about him, something in him that refuses to be ordinary.
This novel seemed, at first, to have abandoned the punishment of the misbehaved that was central to the first novel. But after their return to the chocolate factory, Wonka takes the opportunity to offer a youth potion to Charlie’s family and in characteristic fashion, punish those who pursue youth too greedily. This felt a bit tacked on after the space adventure but I can’t deny that it was fun, impossible ingredients, magic gone wrong and all.
I still prefer Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and this is not a book for sci-fi fans (there is nothing remotely scientific about it!) but it is good, wacky fun and will appeal to the child in all of us (or, you know, to actual children).
The Roald Dahl section at my local book store was completely wiped out by Christmas shoppers but I was able to get my hands on The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, so that’s what I’ll be reading next.
Mari Ness at Tor.com is also doing a Dahl reread. Check out her reviews.